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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Writing - part xx173 Writing a Novel, Protagonist Examples: Horatio Hornblower

24 March 2020, Writing - part xx173 Writing a Novel, Protagonist Examples: Horatio Hornblower

Announcement: Delay, my new novels can be seen on the internet, but my primary publisher has gone out of business—they couldn’t succeed in the past business and publishing environment.  I’ll keep you informed, but I need a new publisher.  More information can be found at  Check out my novels—I think you’ll really enjoy them.

Introduction: I wrote the novel Aksinya: Enchantment and the Daemon. This was my 21st novel and through this blog, I gave you the entire novel in installments that included commentary on the writing. In the commentary, in addition to other general information on writing, I explained, how the novel was constructed, the metaphors and symbols in it, the writing techniques and tricks I used, and the way I built the scenes. You can look back through this blog and read the entire novel beginning with

I’m using this novel as an example of how I produce, market, and eventually (we hope) get a novel published. I’ll keep you informed along the way.

Today’s Blog: To see the steps in the publication process, visit my writing websites
The four plus one basic rules I employ when writing:
1. Don’t confuse your readers.
2. Entertain your readers.
3. Ground your readers in the writing.
4. Don’t show (or tell) everything.
     4a. Show what can be seen, heard, felt, smelled, and tasted on the stage of the novel.
5. Immerse yourself in the world of your writing.
These are the steps I use to write a novel including the five discrete parts of a novel:

1.     Design the initial scene
2.     Develop a theme statement (initial setting, protagonist, protagonist’s helper or antagonist, action statement)
a.     Research as required
b.     Develop the initial setting
c.     Develop the characters
d.     Identify the telic flaw (internal and external)
3.     Write the initial scene (identify the output: implied setting, implied characters, implied action movement)
4.     Write the next scene(s) to the climax (rising action)
5.     Write the climax scene
6.     Write the falling action scene(s)
7.     Write the dénouement scene
I finished writing my 29th novel, working title, Detective, potential title Blue Rose: Enchantment and the Detective.  The theme statement is: Lady Azure Rose Wishart, the Chancellor of the Fae, supernatural detective, and all around dangerous girl, finds love, solves cases, breaks heads, and plays golf.  
Here is the cover proposal for Blue Rose: Enchantment and the Detective
Cover Proposal
The most important scene in any novel is the initial scene, but eventually, you have to move to the rising action. I am continuing to write on my 30th novel, working title Red Sonja.  I finished my 29th novel, working title Detective.  I’m planning to start on number 31, working title Shifter
How to begin a novel.  Number one thought, we need an entertaining idea.  I usually encapsulate such an idea with a theme statement.  Since I’m writing a new novel, we need a new theme statement.  Here is an initial cut.

For novel 30:  Red Sonja, a Soviet spy, infiltrates the X-plane programs at Edwards AFB as a test pilot’s administrative clerk, learns about freedom, and is redeemed.

For novel 31:  Deirdre and Sorcha are redirected to French finishing school where they discover difficult mysteries, people, and events. 

Here is the scene development outline:

1. Scene input (comes from the previous scene output or is an initial scene)
2. Write the scene setting (place, time, stuff, and characters)
3. Imagine the output, creative elements, plot, telic flaw resolution (climax) and develop the tension and release.
4. Write the scene using the output and creative elements to build the tension.
5. Write the release
6. Write the kicker
Today:  Why don’t we go back to the basics and just writing a novel?  I can tell you what I do, and show you how I go about putting a novel together.  We can start with developing an idea then move into the details of the writing. 

To start a novel, I picture an initial scene.  I may start from a protagonist or just launch into mental development of an initial scene.  I get the idea for an initial scene from all kinds of sources.  To help get the creative juices flowing, let’s look at the initial scene. 

1.     Meeting between the protagonist and the antagonist or the protagonist’s helper
2.     Action point in the plot
3.     Buildup to an exciting scene
4.     Indirect introduction of the protagonist

Ideas.  We need ideas.  Ideas allow us to figure out the protagonist and the telic flaw.  Ideas don’t come fully armed from the mind of Zeus.  We need to cultivate ideas. 

1.     Read novels. 
2.     Fill your mind with good stuff—basically the stuff you want to write about. 
3.     Figure out what will build ideas in your mind and what will kill ideas in your mind.
4.     Study.
5.     Teach. 
6.     Make the catharsis. 
7.     Write.

The development of ideas is based on study and research, but it is also based on creativity.  Creativity is the extrapolation of older ideas to form new ones or to present old ideas in a new form.  It is a reflection of something new created with ties to the history, science, and logic (the intellect).  Creativity requires consuming, thinking, and producing.

If we have filled our mind with all kinds of information and ideas, we are ready to become creative.  Creativity means the extrapolation of older ideas to form new ones or to present old ideas in a new form.  Literally, we are seeing the world in a new way, or actually, we are seeing some part of the world in a new way. 

So, modern characters must look like the reader’s impression of the protagonist.  This is an interesting problem as culture and society change as does the impression of the readers.         

I’ve been presenting the means to develop protagonists and characters your readers will enjoy—precisely those that will entertain your readers.  Mainly, the ideas I’ve proposed are these: seeking knowledge, readers, decisions the reader would make, pathos building, and overall, entertaining. 

If we agree, any breech between the protagonist and the reader is not desirable, we can move forward.   

Most of the novels I have read that I really enjoyed I not only liked the protagonist, I loved the protagonist.  I can throw out examples:
1.     Johnny Rico from Starship Troopers
2.     Sara Crew from A Little Princess
3.     Menolly from Dragonsong and Dragonsinger
4.     Anthony Villiers from New Celebrations
5.     Lord Darcy from Randall Garett’s novels
6.     Horatio Hornblower from the C.S. Forester novels
7.     Keith Gersen from Jack Vance’s Demon Princes
8.     Adam Reith from Jack Vance’s Tschai
9.     Glawen Clattuc from Jack Vance’s The Cadwal Chronicles
10.  Flavia DeLuca from Alan Bradley’s novels
11.  Douglas Spaulding from Dandelion Wine

These characters are fun, entertaining, enjoyable, and likable.  I want to evaluate what makes them such good characters.  Let’s move on to Horatio Hornblower.

Horatio Hornblower is a character written by C.S. Forester.  Forester’s novels follow Horatio from his youth as a midshipman to an Admiral.  The novels were not written in order, but today, you can read them from the beginning to the end and see the development of Horatio as a character and a person.

What is very interesting about Horatio is he is basically, historically, a Victorian Era character written in the Romantic format.  Like the authors of Lord Darcy and Anthony Villiers, who are Romantic protagonist’s set in something like the Victorian culture and society, the author of Horatio has to make his character palatable to readers who expect a romantic protagonist.  Personally, I think Forester did a better job than the authors of Darcy and Villiers.

Horatio is the son of a doctor. We don’t fully understand what made him want to become a sailor instead of a doctor, but he is pictured as a representative of the middle class.  Based on my knowledge of Victorian writing and culture, he was likely a child of the middle class and potentially the upper middle class, but Horatio’s desires and life is a very interesting departure from what we might imagine. 

We expect the British upper and middle class to pave the way for their children.  I’m not so sure this was true, and we get the impression from Forester that Horatio is in some way disconnected from his family.  In fact, we don’t get much about his backstory at all.  This is actually a great technique.  It isn’t my favored technique, I like to fully develop the backstory of my characters and then reveal it slowly in the novel.  Forester, instead, gives us just enough information to set the scene for Horatio and no more.  The character doesn’t need it.  We realize there is something that is at fault in Horatio.  The fault may be that he desired more than anything to be a military seaman.  Whatever the case, Horatio is a character most readers can’t help but love.

Horatio is a quiet but very smart person.  He isn’t necessarily portrayed as an intellectual, but he is noted to be a reader and a studious person.  Likewise, and very wisely, Forester shows Hornblower to be a man who is better at action than study and the regurgitation of book learning.  This might seem to be counter-intuitive that readers love books, reading, and learning.  Readers also think that they can achieve anything as long as they have the opportunity.  This is rarely if ever possibly true.  The point is that readers see the world through their imaginations.  Part of the imagination is to mentally develop ideas in your mind.  Readers do just that through novels. 

I don’t mean that readers vicariously live through the protagonist or other characters.  I mean that in their imagination, readers imagine that they could be like the protagonist.  They don’t necessarily want to live the life or even the experiences of the protagonist, but they want to see the world through the eyes of the protagonist.  That’s perhaps the perfect expression—to see the world through the eyes of the protagonist. 

What best allows the reader’s imagination to fall into the mind of the protagonist.  Reading, yes.  Imagination, yes.  Thinking, yes.  Intellectual, yes.  Problem solving, yes.  Think about all the characteristics you like in a person, yourself, and in a protagonist.  Horatio is the man ready for the job.  The books show beautifully his growth and as he gains experience as an officer and a person.  The books also show where his is similar to especially readers. Most readers studied pretty hard to achieve, like Horatio, when they found themselves confounded by an examination, they wished they could have showed off what they knew instead of just floundering.  In one of the most exciting and entertaining scenes in a novel, Horatio when begin tested for rank is confounded, but when the harbor is attacked by the Spanish, he turns the tables on the enemy and wins the day.  This scene uplifts the hearts and minds of every reader.

Likewise, in another very powerful scene, Horatio picks up a live grenade and throws it overboard.  He saves the crew and his ship.  He doesn’t report the story in much detail, but the tale becomes a near myth through the fleet.  These incidents are not just amazing writing and plot devices, they are endearing scenes that depict the makeup of the protagonist.  The reader can’t help but love this character.  Notice, the writer is showing and not telling.  These are two examples of many similar scenes in the novels.

In any case, much of Horatio’s character comes directly from the plot and the character’s quiet but powerful personality.  

Next, the protagonist from the Demon Princes.

The point is that we need to keep our readers content and pleased with our characters while presenting the revelation of the protagonist and the plot.    

The beginning of creativity is study and effort.  We can use this to extrapolate to creativity.  In addition, we need to look at recording ideas and working with ideas.    
More tomorrow.

For more information, you can visit my author site, and my individual novel websites:

fiction, theme, plot, story, storyline, character development, scene, setting, conversation, novel, book, writing, information, study, marketing, tension, release, creative, idea, logic

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